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The Solar Settlement, a sustainable housing community project in

Freiburg, Germany.

Photovoltaic SUDI shade is an autonomous and mobile station in

France that provides energy for electric vehicles using solar energy.

Double glass photovoltaic solar modules, installed in a support

Solar panels on the International Space Station

Photovoltaics (PV) covers the conversion of light

nization got government funding for a ten thousand
into electricity using semiconducting materials that
exhibit the photovoltaic eect, a phenomenon studied roof program.
in physics, photochemistry, and electrochemistry.
On the other hand, grid-connected PV systems have the
A typical photovoltaic system employs solar panels major disadvantage that the power output is dependent
each, comprising a number of solar cells, which on direct sunlight, so by denition, solar power systems
generate elec- trical power.
The rst step is the only produce power for half of a day and less if tracking
photoelectric ef- fect followed by an electrochemical is not used. Power output is also adversely aected by
process where crys- tallized atoms ionized in a weather conditions, especially cloud cover. This means
that, in the national grid for example, this power has to
generate an
elec- tric current.[1] PV
be made up by other power sources: hydrocarbon,
Installations may be ground-mounted, rooftop mounted
nuclear, hydroelectric or wind energy. Solar
or wall mounted.
installations also have a negative aesthetic impact on an
Solar PV generates no pollution.[2] The direct conver- area.
sion of sunlight to electricity occurs without any
Advances in technology and increased manufacturing
mov- ing parts. Photovoltaic systems have been used
scale have reduced the cost, increased the reliability,
for fty years in specialized applications, standalone
and increased the eciency of photovoltaic
and grid- connected PV systems have been in use for
instalations[3] [5] and the levelised cost of electricity
more than twenty years.
They were rst massfrom PV is competiproduced in 2000, when German environmentalists and
the Eurosolar orga-

tive, on a kilowatt/ hour basis, with conventional
electric- ity sources in an expanding list of geographic
Solar PV regularly costs USD 0.05-0.10 per kilowatthour (kWh) in Europe, China, India, South Africa and
the United States.[7] In 2015, record low prices were
set in the United Arab Emirates (5.84 cents/kWh), Peru
(4.8 cents/kWh) and Mexico (4.8 cents/kWh). In May
2016, a solar PV auction in Dubai attracted a bid of 3
Net metering and nancial incentives, such as
preferential feed-in taris for solar-generated
electricity, have sup- ported solar PV installations in
many countries.[8] More than 100 countries now use
solar PV. After hydro and wind power, PV is the third
renewable energy source in terms of globally capacity.
In 2014, worldwide installed PV capacity increased to
177 gigawatts (GW), which is two percent of global
electricity demand.[9] China, fol- lowed by Japan and
the United States, is the fastest grow- ing market, while
Germany remains the worlds largest producer (both in
per capita and absolute terms), with so- lar PV
providing seven percent of annual domestic elec- tricity
With current technology, photovoltaics recoups the energy needed to manufacture them in 1.5 years in
Southern Europe and 2.5 years in Northern Europe.[11]

The term photovoltaic comes from the Greek
(phs) meaning light, and from volt, the unit of
electro-motive force, the volt, which in turn comes
from the last name of the Italian physicist Alessandro
Volta, inventor of the battery (electrochemical cell).
The term photo-voltaic has been in use in English
since 1849.[12]

Main article: Solar cell
Photovoltaics are best known as a method for
generat- ing electric power by using solar cells to
convert energy from the sun into a ow of electrons.
The photovoltaic eect refers to photons of light
exciting electrons into a higher state of energy,
allowing them to act as charge carriers for an electric
current. The photovoltaic eect was rst observed by
Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in
1839.[13] [14] The term photovoltaic denotes the
operating mode of a photodiode in which current
through the device is entirely due to the transduced
light energy. Virtually all photovoltaic devices are
some type of pho- todiode.

Solar cells produce direct current electricity from sun
light which can be used to power equipment or to
recharge a battery. The rst practical application of
photovoltaics was to power orbiting satellites and other
spacecraft, but

today the majority of photovoltaic modules are used
for grid connected power generation. In this case an
inverter is required to convert the DC to AC. There is a
smaller market for o-grid power for remote
dwellings, boats, recreational vehicles, electric cars,
roadside emergency telephones, remote sensing, and
cathodic protection of pipelines.

Solar cells generate electricity directly from sunlight.

Average insolation. Note that this is for a horizontal surface.

Solar panels are normally propped up at an angle and receive
more energy per unit area.

Photovoltaic power generation employs solar panels composed of a number of solar cells containing a
photovoltaic material.
Materials presently used for
polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium
selenide/sulde.[15] Copper solar cables connect
modules (module cable), arrays (array cable), and
Because of the growing demand for
renewable energy sources, the manufacturing of solar
cells and photovoltaic arrays has advanced
considerably in recent years.[16] [17] [18]
Solar photovoltaics power generation has long been
seen as a clean energy technology which draws upon
the planets most plentiful and widely distributed
renewable energy source the sun. The technology is
inherently elegant in that the direct conversion of
sunlight to elec- tricity occurs without any moving parts
or environmental emissions during operation. It is well
proven, as photo-

3.1 Eciency
voltaic systems have now been used for fty years in
specialised applications, and grid-connected systems have
been in use for over twenty years.
Cells require protection from the environment and are
usually packaged tightly behind a glass sheet. When
more power is required than a single cell can deliver,
cells are electrically connected together to form
photovoltaic mod- ules, or solar panels. A single
module is enough to power an emergency telephone, but
for a house or a power plant the modules must be
arranged in multiples as arrays.

is being used to replace the expensive crystalline
which is still part of a standard PV cell build to this
day. Michael Graetzel, Director of the Laboratory of
Photon- ics and Interfaces at EPFL says, Today,
e ciency has peaked at 18 percent, but its expected to
get even higher in the future.[24] This is a signicant
claim, as 20% e - ciency is typical among solar panels
which use more ex- pensive materials.


Photovoltaic power capacity is measured as maximum

power output under standardized test conditions (STC)
in W" (Watts peak).[19] The actual power output at eciency
a particular point in time may be less than or greater Electrical e ciency (also
than this standardized, or rated, value, depending on eciency)
geo- graphical location, time of day, weather
conditions, and other factors.[20] Solar photovoltaic
array capacity factors are typically under 25%, which is
lower than many other industrial sources of electricity.




For best performance, terrestrial PV systems aim to
max- imize the time they face the sun. Solar trackers
achieve this by moving PV panels to follow the sun.
The increase can be by as much as 20% in winter and
by as much as
50% in summer. Static mounted systems can be optimized by analysis of the sun path. Panels are often
set to latitude tilt, an angle equal to the latitude, but
perfor- mance can be improved by adjusting the angle
for sum- mer or winter. Generally, as with other
semiconductor devices, temperatures above room
temperature reduce the performance of photovoltaics.

Best Research-Cell Eciencies

is a contributing factor in the selection of a

photovoltaic system. However, the most ecient solar
panels are typ- ically the most expensive, and may not
be commercially available. Therefore, selection is also
driven by cost e- ciency and other factors.

The electrical eciency of a PV cell is a physical

prop- erty which represents how much electrical power
a cell can produce for a given insolation. The basic
expression for maximum eciency of a photovoltaic
cell is given by the ratio of output power to the incident
A number of solar panels may also be mounted solar power (ra- diation ux times area)
vertically above each other in a tower, if the zenith
distance of the Sun is greater than zero, and the tower
can be turned hor- izontally as a whole and each panels
additionally around a
Pmax [25]
horizontal axis. In such a tower the panels can follow
= EA
the Sun exactly. Such a device may be described as a
ladder mounted on a turnable disk. Each step of that
ladder is
the middle axis of a rectangular solar panel. In case the
zenith distance of the Sun reaches zero, the ladder
may be rotated to the north or the south to avoid a solar
panel producing a shadow on a lower solar panel.
Instead of an exactly vertical tower one can choose a
tower with an axis directed to the polar star, meaning
that it is parallel to the rotation axis of the Earth. In
this case the angle between the axis and the Sun is
always larger than 66 de- grees. During a day it is only
necessary to turn the panels around this axis to follow
the Sun. Installations may be ground-mounted (and

sometimes integrated with farming and grazing)[23] or

built into the roof or walls of a building (buildingintegrated photovoltaics).
Another recent development involves the makeup of solar cells. Perovskite is a very inexpensive material

3.1 Eciency
The eciency is measured under ideal laboratory
condi- tions and represents the maximum achievable
eciency of the PV material. Actual eciency is
inuenced by the output Voltage, current, junction
temperature, light intensity and spectrum.
The most ecient type of solar cell to date is a
multi- junction concentrator solar cell with an
eciency of

46.0%[26] produced by Fraunhofer ISE in December
2014. The highest eciencies achieved without
concen- tration include a material by Sharp Corporation
at 35.8% using a proprietary triple-junction
manufacturing tech- nology in 2009,[27] and Boeing
Spectrolab (40.7% also using a triple-layer design).
The US company SunPower produces cells that have
an eciency of 21.5%, well above the market
average of 1218%.[28]




There is an ongoing eort to increase the conversion

efciency of PV cells and modules, primarily for
competi- tive advantage. In order to increase the
eciency of so- lar cells, it is important to choose a
semiconductor ma- terial with an appropriate band gap
that matches the so- lar spectrum. This will enhance the
electrical and optical properties. Improving the method
of charge collection is also useful for increasing the
eciency. There are several groups of materials that
are being developed. Ultrahigh- eciency devices
(>30%)[29] are made by using GaAs and GaInP2
semiconductors with multijunction tandem



2015: projection

233,000 MW






Global cumulative PV capacity in MW since 1992

cells. High-quality, single-crystal silicon materials are Worldwide growth of photovoltaics on a semi-log plot since 1992
used to achieve high-eciency, low cost cells
Recent developments in Organic photovoltaic cells
(OPVs) have made signicant advancements in power
conversion eciency from 3% to over 15% since their
in- troduction in the 1980s.[30] To date, the highest
reported power conversion eciency ranges from
6.7% to 8.94% for small molecule, 8.4%10.6% for
polymer OPVs, and
7% to 21% for perovskite OPVs.[31] [32] OPVs are expected to play a major role in the PV market. Recent
improvements have increased the eciency and
lowered cost, while remaining environmentally-benign
and renew- able.
Several companies have begun embedding power
optimizers into PV modules called smart modules.
These modules perform maximum power point
tracking (MPPT) for each module individually,
measure perfor- mance data for monitoring, and
provide additional safety features. Such modules can
also compensate for shading eects, wherein a
shadow falling across a section of a module causes
the electrical output of one or more strings of cells in
the module to decrease.[33]

Projected global cumulative capacity (SPE)
historical cumulative capacity
average projection for 2015 (+55 GW, 233 GW)
low scenario reaches 396 GW by 2019
high scenario reaches 540 GW by 2019


Solar photovoltaics is growing rapidly and worldwide

in- stalled capacity reached at least 177 gigawatts (GW)
by the end of 2014. The total power output of the
worlds PV capacity in a calendar year is now beyond
200 TWh of electricity. This represents 1% of
worldwide electric- ity demand. More than 100
countries use solar PV.[10] [35] China, followed by Japan
One of the major causes for the decreased
and the United States is now the fastest growing
performance of cells is overheating. The eciency of
market, while Germany remains the worlds largest
a solar cell de- clines by about 0.5% for every 1 degree
producer, contributing more than 7% to
Celsius increase in temperature. This means that a 100
degree increase in surface temperature could decrease
the eciency of a
its national electricity
Photovoltaics is now,
solar cell by about half. Self-cooling solar cells are one demands.
solution to this problem. Rather than using energy to 100,000
cool the surface, pyramid and cone shapes can be 200,000
formed from silica, and attached to the surface of a 300,000
solar panel. Doing so allows visible light to reach the 400,000
solar cells, but reects infrared rays (which carry heat). 500,000



after hydro and wind power, the third most
renewable energy source in terms of globally
installed capacity.[36]
Several market research and nancial companies
foresee record-breaking global installation of more than
50 GW in 2015.[37] [38] [39] [40] China is predicted to take
the lead from Germany and to become the worlds
largest pro- ducer of PV power by installing another
targeted 17.8
GW in 2015.[41] India is expected to install 1.8 GW,

bling its annual installations.
By 2018, worldwide
pho- tovoltaic capacity is projected to doubled or even
triple to
430 GW. Solar Power Europe (formerly known as
EPIA) also estimates that photovoltaics will meet 10%
to 15% of Europes energy demand in 2030.[42] [43]
The EPIA/Greenpeace Solar Generation Paradigm Shift
Scenario (formerly called Advanced Scenario) from
2010 shows that by the year 2030, 1,845 GW of PV
systems could be generating approximately 2,646
TWh/year of

3.3 Environmental impacts of photovoltaic technologies

electricity around the world. Combined with energy
use eciency improvements, this would represent the
elec- tricity needs of more than 9% of the worlds
population. By 2050, over 20% of all electricity could
be provided by photovoltaics.[44]
Michael Liebreich, from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, anticipates a tipping point for solar energy. The
costs of power from wind and solar are already
below those of conventional electricity generation in
some parts of the world, as they have fallen sharply and
will continue to do so. He also asserts, that the
electrical grid has been greatly expanded worldwide,
and is ready to receive and distribute electricity from
renewable sources. In addition, worldwide electricity
prices came under strong pressure from renewable
energy sources, that are, in part, enthusi- astically
embraced by consumers.[45]
Deutsche Bank sees a second gold rush for the
photo- voltaic industry to come. Grid parity has
already been reached in at least 19 markets by
January 2014. Pho- tovoltaics will prevail beyond
feed-in taris,
becoming more competitive as
deployment increases and prices continue to fall.[46]

and second generation PV[50] suggested that there was
greater variation in embedded energy than in
eciency of the cells implying that it was mainly the
embedded en- ergy that needs to reduce to have a
greater reduction in EPBT. One diculty in
determining impacts due to PV is to determine if the
wastes are released to the air, wa- ter, or soil during the
manufacturing phase.[51] Research is underway to try to
understand emissions and releases during the lifetime
of PV systems.[51]



Crystalline silicon modules are the most extensively studied PV type in terms of LCA since they are the most
com- monly used.
Mono-crystalline silicon
photovoltaic sys- tems (mono-si) have an average
eciency of 14.0%.[52] The cells tend to follow a
structure of front electrode, anti-reection lm, nlayer, p-layer, and back electrode, with the sun hitting
the front electrode. EPBT ranges from 1.7 to 2.7
years.[53] The cradle to gate of CO2 - eq/kWh ranges
from 37.3 to 72.2 grams.[54]

3.3 Environmental impacts of

photovoltaic technologies

Techniques to produce multi-crystalline silicon (multi-si)

photovoltaic cells are simpler and cheaper than monosi, however tend to make less ecient cells, an
aver- age of 13.2%.[52] EPBT ranges from 1.5 to 2.6
years.[53] The cradle to gate of CO2 -eq/kWh ranges
from 28.5 to
69 grams.[54] Some studies have looked beyond EPBT
and GWP to other environmental impacts. In one such
study, conventional energy mix in Greece was
compared to multi-si PV and found a 95% overall
reduction in im- pacts including carcinogens, ecotoxicity, acidication, eutrophication, and eleven

Types of impacts


In June 2014 Barclays downgraded bonds of U.S. utility companies. Barclays expects more competition by a
growing self-consumption due to a combination of decentralized PV-systems and residential electricity storage. This could fundamentally change the utilitys business model and transform the system over the next ten
years, as prices for these systems are predicted to fall.

While solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are promising for

clean energy production, their deployment is hindered
by production costs, material availability, and toxicity.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is one method of
determining environmental impacts from PV. Many
studies have been done on the various types of PV
including rst generation, second generation, and third
generation. Usually these PV LCA studies select a
cradle to gate system bound- ary because often at the
time the studies are conducted, it is a new technology
not commercially available yet and their required
balance of system components and disposal methods are



Cadmium telluride (CdTe) is one of the fastestgrowing thin lm based solar cells which are
collectively known as second generation devices. This
new thin lm device also shares similar performance
restrictions (Shockley- Queisser eciency limit) as
conventional Si devices but promises to lower the cost
of each device by both reduc- ing material and energy
consumption during manufactur- ing. Today the global
market share of CdTe is 5.4%, up from 4.7% in 2008.
This technologys highest power conversion
eciency is 21%.[56] The cell structure in- cludes
glass substrate (around 2 mm), transparent con- ductor
layer, CdS buer layer (50150 nm), CdTe ab- sorber
A traditional LCA can look at many dierent and a metal contact layer.
impact categories ranging from global warming CdTe PV systems require less energy input in their propotential, eco- toxicity, human toxicity, water duction than other commercial PV systems per unit
depletion, and many oth- ers. Most LCAs of PV have elec- tricity production. The average CO -eq/kWh is
focused on two categories: carbon dioxide equivalents around
per kWh and energy pay- back time (EPBT). The 18 grams (cradle to gate). CdTe has the fastest EPBT
EPBT is dened as " the time needed to compensate of all commercial PV technologies, which varies
for the total renewable- and non- renewable- primary between
energy required during the life cycle of a PV system. 0.3 and 1.2 years.[57]
A 2015 review of EPBT from rst

3.3 Environmental impacts of photovoltaic technologies

Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide (CIGS) is a thin
lm solar cell based on the copper indium diselenide
(CIS) family of chalcopyrite semiconductors. CIS and

CIGS are often used interchangeably within the
CIS/CIGS community. The cell structure includes soda
lime glass as


the substrate, Mo layer as the back contact, CIS/CIGS
as the absorber layer, cadmium sulde (CdS) or Zn
(S,OH)x as the buer layer, and ZnO:Al as the front
contact.[58] CIGS is approximately 1/100th the thickness
of conven- tional silicon solar cell technologies.
Materials necessary for assembly are readily available,
and are less costly per watt of solar cell. CIGS based
solar devices resist perfor- mance degradation over time
and are highly stable in the eld.
Reported global warming potential impacts of CIGS
range from 20.5 58.8 grams CO2 -eq/kWh of electricity generated for dierent solar irradiation (1,700
2,200 kWh/m2 /y) and power conversion eciency (7.8

9.12%).[59] EPBT ranges from 0.2 to 1.4 years,[57] while

harmonized value of EPBT was found 1.393 years.[50]
Toxicity is an issue within the buer layer of CIGS
mod- ules because it contains cadmium and gallium.[48]
CIS modules do not contain any heavy metals.



Third-generation PVs are designed to combine the advantages of both the rst and second generation
devices and they do not have Shockley-Queisser
eciency limit, a theoretical limit for rst and second
generation PV cells. The thickness of a third generation
device is less than 1
One emerging alternative and promising technology is
based on an organic-inorganic hybrid solar cell made of
Perovskite PV cells have progressed rapidly over the
past few years and have become one of the most
attractive areas for PV research.[62] The cell structure
includes a metal back contact (which can be made of
Al, Au or Ag), a hole transfer layer (spiro-MeOTAD,
P3HT, PTAA, CuSCN, CuI, or NiO), and absorber
layer (CH3 NH3 PbIxBr3 -x, CH3 NH3 PbIxCl3 -x or
CH3 NH3 PbI3 ), an electron trans- port layer (TiO,
ZnO, Al2 O3 or SnO2 ) and a top con- tact layer
(uorine doped tin oxide or tin doped indium oxide).

There are a limited number of published studies to

address the environmental impacts of perovskite solar
cells.[63] [64] The major environmental concern is the
lead used in the absorber layer. Due to the instability of
per- ovskite cells lead may eventually be exposed to
fresh wa- ter during the use phase. Two published
LCA studies looked at human and ecotoxicity of
perovskite solar cells and found they were surprisingly
low and may not be an environmental issue.[63] [64]
Gong et al. found direct pro- cessing energy as 30
MJ/m2 , while Espinosa didnt report this value (but
estimated around 1000 MJ/m2 ). Global warming
potential was found to be in the range of 24
1500 grams CO2 -eq/kWh electricity production. Similarly, reported EPBT of the published paper range from
0.2 to 15 years. The large range of reported values
high- light the uncertainties associated with these

Two new promising thin lm technologies are copper

zinc tin sulde (Cu2 ZnSnS4 or CZTS) and zinc

(Zn3 P2 ).[48] Both of these thin lms are currently
only produced in the lab but may be commercialized
in the future. Their manufacturing processes are
expected to be similar to those of current thin lm
technologies of CIGS and CdTe, respectively. Yet,
contrary to CIGS and CdTe, CZTS and Zn3 P2 are
made from earth abun- dant, nontoxic materials and
have the potential to pro- duce more electricity
annually than the current worldwide consumption.[65]
While CZTS and Zn3 P2 oer good promise for
these reasons, the specic environmental im- plications
of their commercial production are not yet known.
Global warming potential of CZTS and Zn3 P2 were
found 38 and 30 grams CO2 -eq/kWh while their
corresponding EPBT were found 1.85 and 0.78
years, respectively.[48] Overall, CdTe and Zn3 P2 have
similar environmental impacts but can slightly
outperform CIGS and CZTS.[48]

ing conditions on simple printing equipment
energy pay-back times.
Current eciencies range
from 16.5%,[49] [70] however theoretical analyses
show promise beyond 10% eciency.[69]

Organic and polymer photovoltaic (OPV) are a

relatively new area of research. The tradition OPV
cell structure layers consist of a semi-transparent
electrode, electron blocking layer, tunnel junction, holes
blocking layer, elec- trode, with the sun hitting the
transparent electrode. OPV replaces silver with carbon
as an electrode material low- ering manufacturing cost
and making them more envi- ronmentally friendly.[67]
OPV are exible, low weight, and work well with
roll-to roll manufacturing for mass production.[68]
OPV uses only abundant elements cou- pled to an
extremely low embodied energy through very low
processing temperatures using only ambient process-

There have been major changes in the underlying

costs, industry structure and market prices of solar
photo- voltaics technology, over the years, and gaining a
coherent picture of the shifts occurring across the
industry value chain globally is a challenge. This is
due to: the ra- pidity of cost and price changes, the
complexity of the PV supply chain, which involves a
large number of man- ufacturing processes, the balance
of system (BOS) and installation costs associated with
complete PV systems, the choice of dierent
distribution channels, and dier- ences between
regional markets within which PV is be- ing deployed.
Further complexities result from the many

Many dierent congurations of OPV exist using different materials for each layer. OPV technology
rivals existing PV technologies in terms of EPBT even
if they currently present a shorter operational lifetime.
A 2013 study analyzed 12 dierent congurations all
with 2% ef- ciency, the EPBT ranged from 0.290.52
years for 1 m of PV.[71] The average CO2 -eq/kWh for
OPV is 54.922 grams.[72]


dierent policy support initiatives that have been put in an expanding list of geographic regions,[6]
in place to facilitate photovoltaics commercialisation in particularly when the time of generation is included, as
var- ious countries.[3]
electricity is worth more during the day than at night.
There has been erce competition in the supply
The PV industry has seen dramatic drops in module
and further improvements in the levelised cost of
prices since 2008. In late 2011, factory-gate prices for
for solar lie ahead, posing a growing threat to the
crystalline-silicon photovoltaic modules dropped
of fossil fuel generation sources in the next
below the $1.00/W mark. The $1.00/W installed cost,
As time progresses, renewable energy
is of- ten regarded in the PV industry as marking the
get cheaper,[81] [82] while fossil
achieve- ment of grid parity for PV. Technological
advancements, manufacturing process improvements, fuels generally get more ex- pensive:
and industry re- structuring, mean that further price
reductions are likely in coming years.[3]
The less solar power costs, the more
favor- ably it compares to conventional power,
Financial incentives for photovoltaics, such as
and the more attractive it becomes to utilities
feed- in taris,
have often been oered to
and en- ergy users around the globe. Utilityelectricity con- sumers to install and operate solarscale so- lar power can now be delivered in
electric generating sys- tems.
Government has
California at prices well below $100/MWh
sometimes also oered incen- tives in order to
($0.10/kWh) less than most other peak
encourage the PV industry to achieve the economies
generators, even those running on low-cost
of scale needed to compete where the cost of PVnatural gas. Lower solar module costs also
generated electricity is above the cost from the exstimulate demand from consumer markets
isting grid. Such policies are implemented to promote
where the cost of solar com- pares very
national or territorial energy independence, high tech
favorably to retail electric rates.[83]
job creation and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions
which cause global warming. Due to economies of
scale solar panels get less costly as people use and
buy moreas manufacturers increase production to
meet demand, the cost and price is expected to drop in
the years to come.


Solar cell eciencies vary from 6% for amorphous

silicon-based solar cells to 44.0% with multiplePrice history of silicon PV cells
junction concentrated photovoltaics.
Solar cell
in US$ per watt
energy conver- sion eciencies for commercially
available photovoltaics are around 1422%.[75] [76]
Concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) may reduce cost by
concentrating up to 1,000 suns (through magnifying
lens) onto a smaller sized photo- voltaic cell.
However, such concentrated solar power re- quires
sophisticated heat sink designs, otherwise the pho1977 1981 1985
tovoltaic cell overheats, which reduces its eciency
Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance & pv.energytrend.com
and life. To further exacerbate the concentrated
cooling de- sign, the heat sink must be passive,
otherwise the power required for active cooling would Price per watt history for conventional (c-Si) solar cells since
reduce the overall e- ciency and economy.
Crystalline silicon solar cell prices have fallen
$76.67/Watt in 1977 to an estimated $0.74/Watt in
2013.[77] This is seen as evidence supporting Swansons
law, an observation similar to the famous Moores Law
that states that solar cell prices fall 20% for every doubling of industry capacity.[77]

As of 2011, the cost of PV has fallen well below that

of nuclear power and is set to fall further. The average
retail price of solar cells as monitored by the Solarbuzz
group fell from $3.50/watt to $2.43/watt over the
course of 2011.[84]

As of 2011, the price of PV modules has fallen by 60%

For large-scale installations, prices below
since the summer of 2008, according to Bloomberg
$1.00/watt were achieved. A module price of
New Energy Finance estimates, putting solar power for
0.60 Euro/watt ($0.78/watt) was published
the rst time on a competitive footing with the retail
for a large scale 5-year deal in April 2012.[85]
price of elec- tricity in a number of sunny countries; an
alternative and consistent price decline gure of 75%
from 2007 to 2012 has also been published,[78] though By the end of 2012, the best in class module price
and was expected to drop to
it is unclear whether these gures are specic to the had dropped to $0.50/watt,
United States or gener- ally global. The levelised cost
of electricity (LCOE) from PV is competitive with
conventional electricity sources


In many locations, PV has reached grid parity, which is
usually dened as PV production costs at or below
retail electricity prices (though often still above the
power sta- tion prices for coal or gas-red generation
without their distribution and other costs). However,
in many coun- tries there is still a need for more access
to capital to de- velop PV projects. To solve this
problem securitization has been proposed and used to
accelerate development of solar photovoltaic projects.
[87] [88]
For example, SolarCity oered, the rst U.S.
asset-backed security in the solar industry in 2013.[89]
Photovoltaic power is also generated during a time of
day that is close to peak demand (precedes it) in electricity systems with high use of air conditioning. More
generally, it is now evident that, given a carbon price
$50/ton, which would raise the price of coal-red
power by 5c/kWh, solar PV will be cost-competitive
in most locations. The declining price of PV has been
reected in rapidly growing installations, totaling about
23 GW in
2011. Although some consolidation is likely in 2012,
due to support cuts in the large markets of Germany and
Italy, strong growth seems likely to continue for the
rest of the decade. Already, by one estimate, total
investment in re- newables for 2011 exceeded
investment in carbon-based electricity generation.[84]
In the case of self consumption payback time is
calculated based on how much electricity is not
brought from the grid. Additionally, using PV solar
power to charge DC batteries, as used in Plug-in
Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicles, leads to
greater eciencies. Tradition- ally, DC generated
electricity from solar PV must be con- verted to AC for
buildings, at an average 10% loss during the conversion.
An additional eciency loss occurs in the transition
back to DC for battery driven devices and vehicles, and
using various interest rates and energy price changes
were calculated to nd present values that range from
$2,057.13 to $8,213.64 (analysis from 2009).[90]
For example, in Germany with electricity prices of
0.25 euro/kWh and Insolation of 900 kWh/kW one kW
will save 225 euro per year and with installation cost
of 1700 euro/kW means that the system will pay back
in less than
7 years.[91]

See also:




Overall the manufacturing process of creating solar

pho- tovoltaics is simple in that it does not require the
culmi- nation of many complex or moving parts.
Because of the solid state nature of PV systems they
often have relatively long lifetimes, anywhere from 10
to 30 years. In order to increase electrical output of a

PV system the manufac- turer must simply add more

photovoltaic components and because of this economies
of scale are important for man-

ufacturers as costs decrease with increasing output.

While there are many types of PV systems known to

be eective, crystalline silicon PV accounted for
90% of the worldwide production of PV in 2013. Manufacturing silicon PV systems has several steps.
First, polysilicon is processed from mined quartz until it
is very pure (semi-conductor grade). This is melted
down when small amounts of Boron, a group III
element, are added to make a p-type semiconductor
rich in electron holes. Typically using a seed crystal, an
ingot of this solution is grown from the liquid
polycrystalline. The ingot may also be cast in a mold.
Wafers of this semiconductor material are cut from the
bulk material with wire saws, and then go through
surface etching before being cleaned. Next, the wafers
are placed into a phosphorus vapor deposition fur- nace
which lays a very thin layer of phosphorus, a group V
element, which creates an N-type semiconducting surface. To reduce energy losses an anti-reective coating
is added to the surface, along with electrical contacts.
Af- ter nishing the cell, cells are connected via
electrical cir- cuit according to the specic application
and prepared for shipping and installation.[93]
Crystalline silicon photovoltaics are only one type of PV,
and while they represent the majority of solar cells
pro- duced currently there are many new and
promising tech- nologies that have the potential to be
scaled up to meet future energy needs.

Another newer technology, thin-lm
PV, are manufactured by depositing semiconducting layers on substrate
in vacuum. The substrate is often glass or stainlesssteel, and these semiconducting layers are made of
many types of materials including cadmium telluride
(CdTe), cop- per indium diselenide (CIS), copper
indium gallium dise- lenide (CIGS), and amorphous
silicon (a-Si). After being deposited onto the substrate
the semiconducting layers are separated and connected
by electrical circuit by laser- scribing. Thin-lm
photovoltaics now make up around
20% of the overall production of PV because of the reduced materials requirements and cost to manufacture
modules consisting of thin-lms as compared to siliconbased wafers.[94]
Other emerging PV technologies include organic, dyesensitized,
photovoltaics. OPVs fall into the thin-lm category of
manufacturing, and typically operate around the 12%
eciency range which is lower than the 1221%
typically seen by silicon based PVs. Because organic
photovoltaics require very high purity and are
relatively reactive they must be en- capsulated which
vastly increases cost of manufacturing and meaning
that they are not feasible for large scale up. Dyesensitized PVs are similar in eciency to OPVs but are
signicantly easier to manufacture. However these
dye-sensitized photovoltaics present storage problems
be- cause the liquid electrolyte is toxic and can
potentially permeate the plastics used in the cell.
Quantum dot solar cells are quantum dot sensitized
DSSCs and are solution

6.1 Photovoltaic systems

processed meaning they are potentially scalable, but currently they have not reached greater than 10%
eciency. Perovskite solar cells are a very ecient
solar energy con- verter and have excellent optoelectric
properties for pho- tovoltaic purposes, but they are
expensive and dicult to manufacture.[95]

6.1 Photovoltaic



A photovoltaic system, or solar PV system is a power

system designed to supply usable solar power by
means of photovoltaics. It consists of an arrangement
of sev- eral components, including solar panels to
absorb and di- rectly convert sunlight into electricity, a
solar inverter to change the electric current from DC
to AC, as well as mounting, cabling and other
electrical accessories. PV systems range from small,
roof-top mounted or building- integrated systems with
capacities from a few to several tens of kilowatts, to
large utility-scale power stations of hundreds of
megawatts. Nowadays, most PV systems are gridconnected, while stand-alone systems only account for
a small portion of the market.
Rooftop and building integrated

Rooftop PV on half-timbered house

associated with buildings: either integrated
into them, mounted on them or mounted
nearby on the ground. Rooftop PV systems
are most often retrotted into existing
buildings, usually mounted on top of the
existing roof structure or on the existing
walls. Alternatively, an array can be located

building. Building-integrated photovoltaics
(BIPV) are increasingly incorporated into the
roof or walls of new domestic and industrial
buildings as a principal or ancillary source of
electrical power.[96] Roof tiles with integrated
PV cells are sometimes used as well.
Provided there is an open gap in which air
can circulate, rooftop mounted solar panels
can provide a passive cooling eect on
buildings during the day and also keep
accumulated heat in

at night.

Typically, residential rooftop

separately from
the building but
connected by cable to supply power for the

6.1 Photovoltaic systems

systems have small capacities of around 510
kW, while commercial rooftop systems often
amount to several hundreds of kilowatts.
Although rooftop systems are much smaller
than ground-mounted utility-scale power
plants, they account for most of the worldwide
installed capacity.[98]
Concentrator photovoltaics
Concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) is a photovoltaic technology that contrary to conventional at-plate PV systems uses lenses and
curved mirrors to focus sunlight onto small,
but highly ecient, multi-junction (MJ) solar
cells. In addition, CPV systems often use solar
trackers and sometimes a cooling system to
further increase their eciency. Ongoing research and development is rapidly improving
their competitiveness in the utility-scale segment and in areas of high solar insolation.
Photovoltaic thermal hybrid solar

Photovoltaic thermal hybrid solar collector
(PVT) are systems that convert solar radiation
into thermal and electrical energy. These systems combine a solar PV cell, which converts
sunlight into electricity, with a solar thermal
collector, which captures the remaining
energy and removes waste heat from the PV
module. The capture of both electricity and
heat allow these devices to have higher exergy
and thus be more overall energy ecient
than solar PV or solar thermal alone.[99] [100]
Power stations

Many utility-scale solar farms have been constructed all over the world. As of 2015,
the 579-megawatt (MWAC) Solar Star is the
worlds largest photovoltaic power station,
fol- lowed by the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm
and the Topaz Solar Farm, both with a
capacity of 550 MWAC, constructed by UScompany



Satellite image of the Topaz Solar Farm

First Solar, using CdTe modules, a thin-lm

PV technology.[101] All three power stations
are located in the Californian desert. Many
solar farms around the world are integrated
with agriculture and some use innovative solar tracking systems that follow the suns
daily path across the sky to generate more
electric- ity than conventional xed-mounted
systems. There are no fuel costs or emissions
during op- eration of the power stations.

Standalone PV system at an ecotourism resort (British Columbia,


Rural electrication
Developing countries where many villages are
often more than ve kilometers away from
photovoltaics. In remote locations in India a
rural lighting pro- gram has been providing
solar powered LED lighting to replace
kerosene lamps. The so- lar powered lamps
were sold at about the cost of a few months
supply of kerosene.[102] [103] Cuba is working
to provide solar power for ar- eas that are o
grid.[104] More complex appli- cations of ogrid solar energy use include 3D printers.[105]
RepRap 3D printers have been so- lar
powered with photovoltaic technology,[106]
which enables distributed manufacturing for
sustainable development. These are areas
where the social costs and benets oer an
ex- cellent case for going solar, though the
lack of protability has relegated such
endeavors to humanitarian eorts. However,
in 1995 solar rural electrication projects had
been found to be dicult to sustain due to
unfavorable eco- nomics, lack of technical
support, and a legacy of ulterior motives of
north-to-south technol- ogy transfer.[107]
Standalone systems
Until a decade or so ago, PV was used frequently to power calculators and novelty devices. Improvements in integrated circuits

and low power liquid crystal displays make

it possible to power such devices for
several years between battery changes,
making PV use less common. In contrast,
solar pow- ered remote xed devices have
seen increas- ing use recently in locations
where signi- cant connection cost makes
grid power pro- hibitively expensive. Such
applications include solar lamps, water
pumps,[108] parking me- ters,[109] [110]
emergency telephones, trash com- pactors,[111]
temporary trac signs, charging stations,[112]
and remote guard posts and signals.
In May 2008, the Far Niente Winery in
Oakville, CA pioneered the worlds rst oatovoltaic
photovoltaic solar panels onto 130 pontoons
and oating them on the winerys irrigation
pond. The oating system generates about
477 kW of peak output and when combined
with an ar- ray of cells located adjacent to
the pond is able to fully oset the
winerys electricity consumption.[114] The
primary benet of a oatovoltaic system is
that it avoids the need to sacrice valuable
land area that could be used for another
In the case of the Far Niente
Winery, the oating system saved

three-quarters of an acre that would have
required for a land-based system. That land
area can instead be used for agriculture.[115]
Another benet of a oatovoltaic system is
that the panels are kept at a lower temperature
than they would be on land, leading to a
higher ef- ciency of solar energy
conversion. The oat- ing panels also reduce
the amount of water lost through evaporation
and inhibit the growth of algae.[116]

get blocked or reected back due to

terrain. At these locations, low power
transmit- ters (LPT) are installed to receive
and retrans- mit the signal for local
Spacecraft applications

In transport

Part of Juno's solar array

Solar Impulse 2, a solar aircraft

PV has traditionally been used for electric

power in space. PV is rarely used to provide
motive power in transport applications, but is
being used increasingly to provide auxiliary
power in boats and cars. Some automobiles
conditioning to limit interior temperatures on
hot days.[117] A self-contained solar vehicle
would have limited power and utility, but a
solar-charged electric vehicle allows use of
solar power for trans- portation. Solarpowered cars, boats[118] and airplanes[119]
have been demonstrated, with the most
practical and likely of these being solar cars.
The Swiss solar aircraft, Solar Impulse 2, achieved the longest non-stop solo
ight in history and plan to make the rst
solar- powered aerial circumnavigation of
the globe in 2015.
Telecommunication and signaling
Solar PV power is ideally suited for
telecom- munication applications such as local
telephone exchange, radio and TV
broadcasting, mi- crowave and other forms
of electronic com- munication links. This
is because, in most telecommunication
application, storage batter- ies are already in
use and the electrical system is basically DC.
In hilly and mountainous ter- rain, radio and
TV signals may not reach as they

Solar panels on spacecraft are usually the sole

source of power to run the sensors, active
heat- ing and cooling, and communications.
A bat- tery stores this energy for use when
the solar panels are in shadow. In some, the
power is also used for spacecraft propulsion
electric propulsion.[122] Spacecraft were one
of the ear- liest applications of photovoltaics,
starting with the silicon solar cells used on
the Vanguard
1 satellite, launched by the US in 1958.[123]
Since then, solar power has been used on
mis- sions ranging from the MESSENGER
probe to Mercury, to as far out in the
solar sys- tem as the Juno probe to Jupiter.
The largest solar power system own in
space is the electrical system of the
International Space Station. To increase the
power generated per kilogram, typical
spacecraft solar panels use high-cost, higheciency, and close-packed rectangular
multi-junction solar cells made of gallium
arsenide (GaAs) and other semicon- ductor
Specialty Power Systems
Photovoltaics may also be incorporated as energy conversion devices for objects at elevated temperatures and with preferable radiative emissivities such as heterogeneous combustors.[124]

7 Advantages
The 122 PW of sunlight reaching the Earths surface
is plentifulalmost 10,000 times more than the 13


TW equivalent of average power consumed in 2005
by humans.[125] This abundance leads to the suggestion
that it will not be long before solar energy will
become the worlds primary energy source.[126]
Additionally, solar electric generation has the highest
power density (global mean of 170 W/m2 ) among
renewable energies.[125]
Solar power is pollution-free during use. Production
end- wastes and emissions are manageable using
existing pol- lution controls. End-of-use recycling
technologies are un- der development[127] and policies
are being produced that encourage recycling from
PV installations can operate for 100 years or even
more[129] with little maintenance or intervention after
their initial set-up, so after the initial capital cost of
build- ing any solar power plant, operating costs are
extremely low compared to existing power
Grid-connected solar electricity can be used locally
(transmission losses in the US were approximately 7.2%
in 1995).[130]
Compared to fossil and nuclear energy sources, very
lit- tle research money has been invested in the
develop- ment of solar cells, so there is considerable
room for im- provement. Nevertheless, experimental
high eciency solar cells already have eciencies of
over 40% in case of concentrating photovoltaic
cells[131] and eciencies are rapidly rising while massproduction costs are rapidly falling.[132]
In some states of the United States, much of the
invest- ment in a home-mounted system may be lost if
the home- owner moves and the buyer puts less value
on the system than the seller. The city of Berkeley
developed an innova- tive nancing method to remove
this limitation, by adding a tax assessment that is
transferred with the home to pay for the solar panels.
Now known as PACE, Property Assessed Clean
Energy, 30 U.S. states have duplicated this solution.

There is evidence, at least in California, that the

presence of a home-mounted solar system can actually
increase the value of a home. According to a paper
published in April
2011 by the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory titled An Analysis of the Eects
of Residen- tial Photovoltaic Energy Systems on Home
Sales Prices in California:
The research nds strong evidence that
homes with PV systems in California have
sold for a premium over comparable homes
with- out PV systems. More specically,
estimates for average PV premiums range
from approx- imately $3.9 to $6.4 per
installed watt (DC) among a large number of
dierent model spec- ications, with most
models coalescing near

$5.5/watt. That value corresponds to a premium of approximately $17,000 for a

relatively new 3,100 watt PV system (the
average size of PV systems in the study).[135]


8 See
Active solar
American Solar Energy Society
Anomalous photovoltaic eect
Carbon nanotubes in photovoltaics
Concentrated photovoltaics
Copper in photovoltaic power generation
Cost of electricity by source
Electromotive force#Solar cell

Photovoltaic system


Quantum eciency#Quantum eciency of

solar cells
Renewable energy commercialization
Solar cell research
Solar energy
Solar module quality assurance
Solar photovoltaic monitoring
Solar power by country
Solar thermal energy
Theory of solar cell

Graphene#Solar cells
List of photovoltaics companies
List of solar cell manufacturers
Maximum power point tracker
Photoelectrochemical cell
Photovoltaic power station

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10 Further reading
Clean Tech Nation: How the U.S. Can Lead in the
New Global Economy (2012) by Ron Pernick and
Clint Wilder
Deploying Renewables 2011 (2011) by the
International Energy Agency
Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New
Energy Era (2011) by Amory Lovins
Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (2011) by the IPCC
Solar Energy Perspectives (2011) by the International
Energy Agency
How practical is solar power for PH home owners?
by Rappler




11 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

11.1 Text

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaics?oldid=729138841 Contributors:
Rjstott, Youssefsan,
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Jepuente, Edward130603, FrescoBot, SolarGuru, Illustria, Tranletuhan, Mattssi, Mr Slammy, Gennaker1, Expertsdu, Cita- tion bot 1,
Javert, Pe-Jo, Pinethicket, I dream of horses, Eengined, Hillarin, Lk.wiginton, SolarPVGLOBE, SpaceFlight89, Enerjiturk,
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Louisbeta, ASCIIn2Bme, David.karpay,
2minty, Venturasolar, Zalexa, Pierredemaere, Klilidiplomus, Szkieletstalowy, MrRenewables, Cyberbot II, Fathpour, EuroCarGT, Hindumuninc, Soulparadox, Abhilash0230, Bubbaylupis, Dexbot, Majilis, Hmainsbot1, CECB2012, Mogism, Jezko, TwoTwoHello,
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Zones, Metalomer, Rov2907, Klau1983, KVuong, Fthwaite, Manul, Davidfang2000, Ccamealy, Nishantsnair, Bickstein, Tom356798,
Monkbot, SkateTier, Technopreneur.ashish, Sochyh, Dilipkumbham, Laana2, TerryAlex, Guevarra.jayson, LibertyBelle41, Liance,
TaqPol, Weegeerunner, Blistro, Lolguy1412, Hadron137, Hokupaa, DeusCat, KasparBot, Beansweed, Hanjin, Flen Durelstoufh,
CLCStudent, Evanblasband, Brookemason01, Rweidinger, Capriciousknees, Ivygroup21, Floatovoltaics, Saulpazos, Shailendralove and
Anonymous: 767

11.2 Images
File:4inch_poly_solar_cell.jpg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/4inch_poly_solar_cell.jpg License:
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Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

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